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Gaining Buy-In for Decisions
Making a quality decision doesn’t matter if those asked to execute that decision fail to do so. In actuality, gaining buy-in for a decision may be more important than the decision itself. If a team resists and fails to execute a decision, it really doesn’t matter how smart the decision is. Getting others to fully subscribe to a decision is a task good leaders face almost every day.
The recipe for buy-in doesn’t change from organization to organization, or from team to team. Five timeless ingredients give leaders an edge in creating subscription for any decision they are contemplating.
First, if a leader wants others to accept a decision, they must offer a chance for team members to opine before the decision is fully baked. Hearing what everyone has to say and gathering viewpoints from everyone affected by the decision is THE essential first step. When team members are not asked for their opinion, their primary instinct is to resist — even when they agree with the choice.
Second, leaders must be highly transparent about the problem or opportunity addressed by the decision. Understanding the “Why” behind a decision is table stakes for those we want to play the game and execute the decision. This also allows team members to explain to others why they are in support of the decision.
Third, leaders who gain buy-in explain how the decision has evolved. By highlighting the data, information, and viewpoints that have shaped the decision, team members come to appreciate the logic behind whatever choice is being proposed. Explaining how a decision has evolved also displays the team wisdom harnessed by the process.
Fourth, leaders who expect others to execute on the decision have to lead by example. In the case of buy-in, this means having skin in the game. The decision must affect the leader as much as anyone else. When team members believe leaders are immune to the impact of a decision, resistance carries a flag.
Lastly, leaders must anticipate every question and objection that might arise regarding the decision and be prepared to address them. While no leader is perfect in this regard, those who are surprised by objections or counterarguments quickly lose credibility and buy-in, especially for those on the fence.